Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How Seniors Can Get Help Paying Utility Bills

If you are just getting by and finding it difficult to meet only your monthly bill commitments, there is help out there. Many seniors may find it hard to ask for help or don’t know where to go. 

Low Income Financial Help has provided a great list of how to get help with utilities. In addition, if you are having other financial difficulties that go beyond utilities and can use some money help, there are numerous non-profits and government programs which can help. 


Non-Government Agency Help for Paying Utility Bills


The first place to look is your own utility or heating company. Utility company programs offer payment plans, free conservation measures, and shut off prevention as resources. Heating bill programs are another way of helping pay for utility bills. 

There are a number of Heating bill programs available, depending upon where you live. Non-profits, charities and social service agencies also offer a variety of assistance with utility bills. 

There are organizations such as Dollar Energy Fund, Operation Roundup, Salvation Family Emergency Services, and the National Fuel Funds Network. So before you begin jumping through the government’s hoops; look closer to home for some help with heat.


Four Main Ways to Get Help From the Government


However, there are at least four ways to get help from the government in paying your utility bills: Low Income Home Energy Assistance, the Weatherization Assistance Program, the Home Energy Assistance Program, and the Heating Repair Replacement Program. 

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program allows qualifying residents a one-time benefit during winter months to help pay energy bills. The amount paid depends on income, size of household, fuel type, and geographic location. The Weatherization Assistance Program is designed to help low income homes save fuel and money, while increasing their comfort. 

The Home Energy Assistance Program and Heating Repair Replacement Program are smaller, more specialized programs. All of the programs require paperwork and documentation of participants meeting predetermined criteria.


1. Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program


The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is broken down state by state at Benefits.gov. This program is designed to keep heat on in low-income homes during the freezing months of winter. 

In order to apply for the program, you must meet a yearly maximum income level dependent upon the state you live in.

You’ll need to contact a local community action agency and make an appointment in order to apply for the program. 

A person who participates in certain other benefit programs may be automatically eligible for L.I.H.E.A.P (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program Crisis Programs). 

For any low-income family with an emergency, such as an unexpected disconnection or low heating oil or fuel, grants and financial assistance can be paid directly to your electricity or utility companies.

2. Weatherization Assistance Program



The Weatherization Assistance Program for most states has a goal of insulating homes, especially the elderly, disabled, families with children, high energy users and homes with high energy burdens.

In order to apply for the program, you must meet a yearly maximum income level dependent upon the state you live in.

You’ll need to contact a local community action agency and make an appointment in order to apply. A person who participates in certain other benefit programs may be automatically eligible. 

This program focuses more on the long-term savings for low income housing by providing services such as weather-stripping, wall and attic insulation, minor home repairs, and other energy saving measures.

3. Home Energy Assistance Program


The Home Energy Assistance Program will provide financial help to eligible households that need assistance paying heating and/or cooling bills. 


4. Heating Repair Replacement Program


Heating Repair Replacement Programs provide repair or replacement of heating units, appliances, furnaces, and other home upgrades for low-income families to help with heating costs.

So when you get stuck in the cold for one reason or another, don’t be afraid to ask for help, because it is out there. 

For short-term emergencies or long term planning, making your home a comfortable place should be your top priority.

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